Four Tips for Writing a Candidate Rejection Email

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Candidate rejection email

Four Tips for Writing a Candidate Rejection Email

Ideally, more people will apply for an open position than can be hired for it. The benefit is that you’ll have a broader talent pool to draw from. The downside, of course, is that you’ll need to send rejection emails to anyone who didn’t make the cut.

Let’s be honest here: No one wants to receive a rejection email, and no one wants to write one. But it’s something that must be done. Sending a rejection email shows that you respect that person’s time, despite the fact that you aren’t going to hire them. Keep in mind that applying for a job can be time-consuming, so every person who applied for a job at your organization has invested a fair amount of effort in the process.

More importantly, people who are “ghost” rejected from a position at your organization are probably willing to tell their friends about it. And if someone hears that your organization “ghosts” applicants, that person’s friends might be discouraged from applying. And because that person likely has a circle of friends who works in the same industry as them, word can travel quite fast among professionals in your industry.

What we’re getting at is that by not sending a rejection email, you could be potentially limiting your future talent pool.

So let’s look at four tips for crafting a really good candidate rejection email.

Be polite.

This probably goes without saying, but you should always be polite when sending a professional email. This is doubly true when you’re sending a rejection email.

Rejection emails should be as polite as possible. Thank the person for applying. Let them know you appreciate the time they spent going through your application process. Try to let them down as gently as possible. If you’d consider them for a future position, let them know this.

No one likes receiving a rejection letter. The least you can do is soften the blow a bit by being polite and treating the candidate with respect.

Don’t think of this as the end.

A candidate rejection letter might not be the final point of communication between the candidate and your organization. The person might be a long-time customer or client, and they might even end up being a future hire. The last thing you want to do is create a barrier between your organization and this person.

The relationship between a person and your organization – even if it’s a parasocial relationship – is a complicated thing. A candidate rejection email shouldn’t feel like a breakup; you should allow the candidate a pathway to maintaining whatever that complex relationship was before they applied for the job.

When you word your email, avoid any phrases that signal the end. Make it clear that the person is still welcome to use your services and apply for future positions.

Be specific rather than generic.

Getting a rejection letter is never a good experience, but getting one that feels like a form letter is even worse. It can feel like you’re adding insult to injury.

When you write a rejection email, make sure you address the person directly. Use their name. Mention the position they applied for. If you’re able to, give a reason for the rejection. If they asked for too much money, let them know. If their availability wasn’t flexible enough for you, tell them that. If you’ve chosen someone with more experience, mention that in the email. If the person had a lot of experience, but it wasn’t the right type of experience, let them know that too.

When you make an effort to prove to the candidate that you listened to them, considered their case, and were forced to choose someone else, they’ll feel a lot better about it. If the person feels like you didn’t even listen to them, they might feel insulted on top of feeling rejected.

Proofread your email before sending it.

This seems obvious, but you might be surprised by the number of “professional” emails that go out with no proofreading whatsoever.

When you send a professional email, you should be using proper grammar, and you should make sure you spell things correctly. Can you imagine receiving a rejection letter that spells your name wrong, then lets you know they didn’t hire you because you seem to lack attention to detail?

It’s easy to make mistakes in a first draft of any piece of writing. Believe it or not, even professional writers make mistakes in their early drafts. This means that, no matter your skill level, you should proofread your rejection email thoroughly.

And don’t settle for a single session. Proofread the email once, then put it down. Pick it up later in the day and proofread it again. You’ll probably see some things you’d missed in your previous proofreading session.

No rejection letter will ever be absolutely perfect, but yours should be as close to perfect as humanly possible.


It’s not easy to write a candidate rejection email, but hopefully the four tips we’ve outlined above will help you let your candidates down gently. Ideally, that person will still be left with a positive outlook of your organization, and maybe they’ll even apply again down the road. In fact, maybe they’ll end up being your dream candidate in a year or two!